WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episode 1 of Heaven Official's Blessing, "The Bride Prince" now streaming on Funimation.
In Heaven Official's Blessing's series premiere, protagonist Xie Lian's first appearance rocks the heavens -- literally. Dressed in humble white robes and with his neck wrapped in bandages, Xie Lian is the least ostentatious-looking god ever. Unfortunately for Xie Lian, he doesn't have time to get settled in his new heavenly digs before he's tasked with solving a spooky mystery -- which unexpectedly results in the ringing of wedding bells.
The opening song for the animated adaptation boasts absolutely breathtaking artwork, set to a subdued, almost bittersweet song -- foreshadowing the general tone of the donghua. Xie Lian's third ascension is met with a lot of dismay and destruction -- toppling a clock and a palace. Ling Wen, another god, tells him that the fastest way to pay off some of the 8.88 million merit credits of damage he caused is to go to the north and help get rid of some ghosts. The only problem is, none of the gods are willing to help him out. While in the Telepathic Matrix (the gods' version of a group chat), they grumble about how he's the laughing stock of all three realms, to which Xie Lian gives a small, embarrassed smile.
Xie Lian descends to the mortal realm and sets off to Mount Yujun. He soon gets his first lead at a tea shop, in the form of a single translucent silvery butterfly fluttering past. Two junior officials also appear to help him out, both of whom don't look the least bit enthused: Nan Feng and Fu Yao, the junior officials of the two martial gods Feng Xin and Mu Qing, who have a bit of a history with Xie Lian.
17 brides have been kidnapped by a ghost groom for over 100 years at Mount Yujun, and another one might have joined them if they hadn't spotted a bridal sedan carrying another girl to her doomed fate. Xiao Ying, a young woman, tries to stop the procession, yelling to the bride that she's being used as bait, only for it to be a fake bride. The leader of the procession, Xiao Peng You is furious that she's stopping him from receiving the bounty that's being offered for capturing the ghost groom. Unable to stand it any longer, Xie Lian shoves the leader away.
For some strange reason, Ming Guang Temple does not exist even though it's supposed to be General Pei's territory. The three of them visit Nan Yang Temple but soon after, Nan Feng and Fu Yao start bickering and fighting about how their generals treated Xie Lian when he was a Crown Prince. Without much information to go on, Xie Lian borrows mana (spiritual power) from Nan Feng to talk to Ling Wen who tells him that the ghost groom is a powerful Wraith. The three of them conclude that a mannequin won't be able to bait the ghost groom leaving them with only one choice: Xie Lian has to dress up as a bride. That night, when the group is ambushed by wolves and slavegoblins, Xie Lian instructs the other two of the trio to leave him alone to wait for the ghost groom.
All is quiet until he hears bells jingling and a familiar translucent butterfly announcing the arrival of a mysterious figure dressed in red, who offers Xie Lian a hand with a red thread around his middle finger. As soon as Xie Lian takes his hand, his memory flashes back to when he was the Crown Prince of Xian Le. It was the first time he ascended the heavens; a time when he failed his people after his kingdom was hit with a crisis. He remembers saving a little bandaged boy from falling from the tower, who later grows up to be a soldier.
As Xie Lian walks with the figure in red, the latter holding a red umbrella to shield them from the blood dripping down from the corpses hanging in the trees, he senses an enormous amount of power exuding out from him: the wolves fear the figure in red and he disperses the magical formation with great ease. An ominous start to the long-awaited Chinese animation.